Nov. 20, 2009
Spartanburg, S.C. - When USC Upstate makes the short trip to Rock Hill, S.C., Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. showdown at Winthrop, it will renew a rivalry that dates back to 1979, but one that has been dormant since 1984. Upstate leads the all-time series, 8-5, and own a two-game winning streak after claiming a pair of wins in the 1984 season. The Spartans are looking for their first win of the season and will play their first game in the state of South Carolina after opening the season at Nebraska and Indiana. Winthrop stands 1-1 on the year, having claimed a tension-filled 57-55 victory over Limestone and losing on the road at College of Charleston, 69-57.
Fans not in attendance at the game can follow the action online three different ways. Live audio featuring play-by-play by Scott Larson is available through the Upstate Athletics Web site at www.upstatespartans.com. Live video, for a fee, and live stats are available through the official Winthrop Athletics Web site, www.winthropeagles.com.
Looking Back At Indiana
USC Upstate gave Indiana, one of the most historic programs in all of college basketball, all it could handle before the Hoosiers took a 69-61 victory Monday night in Assembly Hall. The game was the first of three for the Spartans on television this season with coverage on the Big Ten Network. Upstate led for most of the first six minutes before Indiana used a 12-0 run to open a 16-9 lead midway through the half. However, Upstate closed to within one, 24-23, with 4:05 remaining before the Hoosiers closed out the period with an 8-2 spurt to take a 32-25 lead at halftime. The Spartans fell behind by 20 points in the second half, but staged a rally with a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to eight points with 2:20 to play in the game. After a strong defensive possession, Indiana's Christian Whatford sank a desperation three-pointer with the shot clock about to expire to give the Hoosiers an 11-point lead with 1:44 to play to seal the win. Mezie Uzochukwu led Upstate with 14 points, becoming the first Spartan to reach double figures in a game this season.
Winthrop enters Saturday afternoon's game with Upstate with a 1-1 record. The Eagles dropped a 69-57 decision at the College of Charleston Tuesday night for its first loss of the season. Winthrop narrowly escaped an upset bid by Limestone in the Eagles' season opener on Nov. 14. Mantoris Robinson converted a layup at the buzzer to deliver a 57-55 win for the Eagles.
Winthrop plays primarily an eight player rotation with eight players averaging 19 minutes a game or more. Two other players average less than 10 minutes a game.
Winthrop enters Saturday's showdown averaging 57 points per game, while allowing opponents to score at a 62.0 ppg clip. The Eagles have struggled from the field, shooting 34.7 percent from the floor and 3.6 percent with just one made basket from behind the three-point arc. Opponents are shooting 41.5 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from three-point land on the year.
Individually, Andre Jones tops the Eagles in scoring at 13 points per game. He ranks second in assists and tops the club with six steals on the year. Robinson ranks second on the team at nine points a game, while Matt Morgan adds eight points per contest. Robinson tops the Eagles with 10.5 rebounds per game, almost averaging a double-double.
Head coach Randy Peele is in his seventh season as a head coach in college basketball and his third at Winthrop, following four years as an assistant in the program. He owns a 34-32 record at the helm of the Eagles program, leading Winthrop to the 2008 Big South Conference title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in his first year as head coach. Prior to his stint at Winthrop, Peele served as head coach at UNC Greensboro from 1995-99, leading the Spartans to two Big South championships, one Big South Tournament title and one appearance in the NCAA Tournament. He owns a career record of 80-101. He has also served as an assistant at Virginia Tech, St. Michael's College, Tennessee-Martin, Campbell and UNC Greensboro.
Uzochukwu Takes Over Offensive Reigns
Mezie Uzochukwu's development as an offensive player has begun to take root. Known for his defensive abilities as a freshman, he worked on developing his outside shot prior to his sophomore season last year. Prior to this season, he worked on his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. As a result, he has become a more potent outside threat while possessing the ability and strength to go inside. He currently leads Upstate in scoring at 10.0 points per game and is the only Spartan to reach double figures in a game, finishing with 14 points at Indiana.
The Countdown Is On
Barring something unforeseen, Upstate's 7-3 center Nick Schneiders should break the Upstate all-time blocked shots record prior to the start of exams in early December. He currently has 124 blocked shots, 12 shy of the all-time mark of 136 held by Kevin Harrington. He averaged over two blocked shots per game last season and has blocked seven shots in the first two games of the season. If he maintains his 3.5 blocked shots per game average, he could break the record at home against Stetson on Nov. 30 in the Spartans' A-Sun opener.
LeGates Solid Out Of The...Gate
Freshman shooting guard Ryan LeGates has proven to be a solid addition to the Upstate lineup. Rated a Top 6 Senior Surprise by Rivals.com prior to the start of his senior season at Blessed Trinity High School in Marietta, Ga., he has been a key contributor through the first three games this season. He opened the year with six points at Nebraska before finishing with a career-high nine points at Indiana. His grit and determination will keep on the court for Upstate as the season progresses.
Schneiders Leads The Way
To say that Nick Schneiders is the main shot blocking threat for Upstate is an understatement. He leads Upstate, and the A-Sun, with seven blocks on the year, averaging 3.5 per game. Only one other Spartan, Chalmers Rogers, has recorded a block on the year.
Spartans In The A-Sun
Upstate's early season performance on the defensive end of the court has been solid and the latest A-Sun statistical report illustrates the point. Upstate ranks second in the conference with 4.0 blocks per game and third with 7.5 steals per outing. The Spartans rank sixth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 72.5 points per game against marquee opponents Nebraska and Indiana. Individually, Upstate players also rank among the league leaders. Nick Schneiders tops the conference with 3.5 blocks per game. He also ranks among the A-Sun leaders in rebounding (8th, 6.5), offensive rebounds (13th, 2.0), defensive rebounds (7th, 4.5) and field goal percentage (8th, 60.0%). Mezie Uzochukwu ranks 25th in scoring with 10.0 points per game and ranks 10th with an 80.0 percent free throw percentage. Josh Chavis, Carter Cook and Pat Posey also rank among the conference leaders in various categories.
In two games this season, Upstate has found itself in a familiar place at halftime, trailing by seven points. In the season opener at Nebraska, Upstate trailed, 31-24, at the half before taking a 76-49 loss. At Indiana, Upstate trailed, 32-25, before battling the Hoosiers to a 69-61 loss.
Celebrating 25 Years
When Eddie Payne took USC Upstate on the court at Nebraska on Nov. 14, he began his 25th as a head coach on the collegiate level. He has amassed 369 wins in his illustrious career, coaching at all levels of college hoops. Last year he became the only active coach in Division I to have served as a head coach on all levels of college basketball, coaching in the NCAA at Divisions I, II and III, as well as in the NAIA and JUCO ranks. He coached his 700th career game in the season-ending game at Gonzaga last year, capping a successful second season in Division I after improving the Spartans' overall win total by two games and the conference win total by three games over the 2007-08 season.
Payne began his career as head coach at Truett-McConnell on the JUCO level and moved to Belmont Abbey when the Crusaders were members of the NAIA. He got his first NCAA Division I coaching position at East Carolina before moving to Oregon State. He then coached at Division III Greensboro College before taking the job at Upstate when the Spartans were members of Division II. With Upstate now in Division I, he has coached at three different DI institutions.
Upstate Receives $4 Million Gift For Hodge Renovations
Mrs. Dodie Anderson, a 1981 graduate of USC Upstate and a longtime friend and supporter of the University and its Athletics Department, formally announced a gift of $4 million to completely renovate the G.B. Hodge Center. Renovations are expected to begin on March 1 and expected to be completed by the start of the 2009-10 basketball season. Once complete, the "new" Hodge Center will feature a new floor, lights, seating, state-of-the-art scoreboards and scorer's tables, video capabilities and sound system. The $4 million gift is the largest single gift made to the Athletics Department and one of the largest in school history. Anderson and her late husband, Bob, were owners of Anderson Hardwood Floors, what was once the largest privately owned hardwood floor manufacturing company in the country.
Schneiders The Tallest Tree In The Forest
Nick Schneiders, Upstate's only center on the roster, is the tallest player to ever wear a uniform at Upstate. At 7-3, he holds the distinction by five inches over Michael Gibson, who tipped the height chart at 6-10. He is also the tallest player playing in the A-Sun. The Rietberg, Germany, native has played organized basketball for just five years. He is a redshirt senior after sitting out his first season on the Upstate campus in 2005-06. Despite his youth in the game of basketball, he has developed at a rapid rate. In his first year playing with Upstate in 2006-07, he averaged 2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while blocking 13 shots. A year later, he more than doubled his averages to 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per outing while blocking 25 shots. He had a breakout year last year, averaging 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while blocking a school record 79 shots.
Schneiders The King Of The Block
With four blocked shots against Belmont on Feb. 16, Nick Schneiders moved atop the single-season blocks list at Upstate. He finished the season with 79 blocks, surpassing the 56 swatted by Kevin Harrington in 2002-03. Schneiders, who already had demolished his single-season school Division I blocks record of 25 set in 2007-08, now has 124 in his career and ranks second all-time behind Harrington, who finished his career with 136 in four seasons. Schneiders has become just the second Spartan to reach 100 career blocks.
Making The Grade
While Upstate works hard to try to get it done on the court, the Spartans work to get it done in the classroom as well. The hard work has paid off as the men's basketball program posted a team GPA of 3.026 in the fall semester and a 3.113 GPA in the spring semester. The performance in the spring marked the highest GPA for the basketball team since the department began tracking team GPAs in the early 1990's. Eight members of the men's basketball team were selected to the A-Sun All-Academic team released by the league last summer. Gabor Boros, Cedric Koffi, Matt Preston, Lucas Reiff, Zac Rich, Chalmers Rogers, Nick Schneiders and Mezie Uzochukwu were each selected as All-Academic in the A-Sun. The eight All-Academic selections are the most ever in the history of the program, topping the seven selections to the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Academic Honor Roll in 2007 in the Spartans' final year in NCAA Division II.